Following controversial federal management of herring stocks resulting in the peaceful occupation of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) offices by the Heiltsuk last March, DFO and Heiltsuk have jointly developed a management plan for the 2016 Central Coast herring fishery.
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council (HTC) is pleased to announce four major improvements to the management plan, as well as a new working relationship between DFO and the Heiltsuk.
“The development of this plan has set the stage for future co-management of resources with the federal government,” said Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “On behalf of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, I applaud DFO staff for successfully establishing the foundation for a nation-to-nation relationship with our people. We look forward to building this relationship as we continue to uphold our responsibility as Heiltsuk to protect our lands, waters, and resources.”
Key improvements to the management plan include:
1. Improved abundance forecasts. Following the recommendation of Heiltsuk scientific advisors, DFO is returning to their historical assessment model for 2016, which is believed to provide more accurate predictions.
2. Lower harvest rate. The harvest rate has lowered from 10% to 7% to allow continued recovery time for stocks.
3. Important sac roe fishery closures. Designated areas including Spiller Channel, one of the most culturally and ecologically important spawning grounds in the region, will be closed to the sac roe fishery to rebuild localized stocks while providing for Heiltsuk FSC and SOK fishing opportunities.
4. Heiltsuk observer on DFO boats. Recognizing the Nation’s stewardship rights and responsibilities, the DFO will have a Heiltsuk observer onboard the DFO vessel at all times during the herring fishery.
“It is rewarding to see this product of dialogue with DFO as we work to manage this critical resource sustainably for future generations,” said Kelly Brown, Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department Director. “We are pleased to see DFO’s commitment to making future decisions based on Heiltsuk knowledge and sound science.”
“Our people rely on herring for food, social, and ceremonial purposes, as well as employment and spiritual and cultural wellness,” stated William Gladstone, chief negotiator of the Gladstone Reconciliation. “This year’s plan is an important step to ensure that our right to access this resource, which has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, will continue to be upheld.”
DFO will release the draft 2015-16 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Pacific Herring, including details on Central Coast stock management in the coming days. For copies please contact DFO directly.